Locally-Sourced Product Expansion Works Through Public-Private Effort
Last January in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association, the NYS Restaurant Association highlighted industry trends expected in 2013. Topping the list was locally-sourced food. With three-quarters of the year behind us, there is every indication the long-awaited growth in locally-sourced food within the hospitality sector is bearing out the prediction and in fact, accelerating.
If only iconic House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s famous aphorism that "all politics is local” was true for food and the modern foodservice business. While most restaurateurs and caterers would prefer to serve more locally-sourced ingredients on their menus, factors like availability, consistency, cost and lack of consistent markets and delivery mechanisms can make it prohibitive from a business point-of-view.
The New York State Restaurant Association has been working for the better part of a decade to address these issues and help restaurateurs connect with more local purveyors. In 2005, working with then Sen. Hillary Clinton, we hosted a summit of leading New York City restaurateurs at the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York. Surprisingly, most New York City restaurant owners reported that it was easier and much more cost effective to buy produce and other products coming all the way from Europe and South America, than it was to get produce and other products from upstate New York.
In the ensuing years, the Restaurant Association has worked to highlight locally-based purveyors at the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York through our New York pavilion and at many of our Association events where we invite local food, wine, beer and now spirits producers to come and introduce their goods to a broad cross section of the New York restaurant industry. Progress has been steady, but hard-fought.
Then last fall, we received a major boost when Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought the power of his office to this issue with his TasteNY initiative. This initiative began with a kickoff summit last October and continued this past August with a Wine Cup tour, highlighting the evolving world-class wines of the Finger Lakes. A major facet of this initiative has been to get more New York products into New York restaurants. The New York State Restaurant Association is a proud partner with Gov. Cuomo in this initiative. Through our extensive member communications network, we are able to highlight this issue and Gov. Cuomo’s TasteNY initiative for our more than 10,000 member restaurant locations around the state. We are currently working with New York State Restaurant Association members to encourage them to take Gov. Cuomo’s TasteNY pledge – which asks restaurants to offer more New York products on their menus.
This public/private partnership is beginning to yield excellent results. Early data are showing a significant increase in use of local products by restaurants. According to the Governor’s office, in the past couple of years alone, the local spirits industry has increased by 211 percent.
The lesson we’ve learned from our experience so far with getting local products into restaurants is that everyone says they’re interested in making this happen, but that logistically, it can be challenging. However, these challenges can be overcome with focus and effort from the industry and the strong support of visionary leaders.
If you would like to learn more about incorporating local foods into your menu, join the NYS Restaurant Association NYC chapter for a panel discussion on November 12 at Landmarc, Time Warner Center, hosted by Chef Marc Murphy. The event also includes Executive Chef and Managing Partner Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe. This event is also sponsored by the Governor’s TasteNY campaign. The panel will include New York food and wine producers and a tasting menu featuring New York State’s best food and wine. Visit www.nysra.org for details and to RSVP to the event.